Canibus :: Lyrical Law
Canibus Catalogue/LGW Publishing
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
There's going to be some unavoidable confusion from the jump when I
explain to you the reader that there are THREE different versions
of "Lyrical Law." In an effort to offer the most choices to his dedicated fans
(or perhaps more cynically to make the most profit off them) you could
order either a one disc "Lyrical Law" that only came in a CD sleeve, a two
disc "Lyrical Law" in a jewel case with bonus tracks and remixes, or a
DELUXE three disc edition which 'Bis recorded back in 1993
when he was part of a group called The Heralds of Extreme Metaphors
a/k/a THEM. With apologies to the die-hard Canibus fans out there, I don't
have the patience for three whole discs in one sitting, and I'm not sure I
can feign enthusiasm for an album Germaine recorded when he was still
a teenager. Perhaps on another day at another time, I'll give it a shot.
The first disc is common to all three versions of "Lyrical Law," so our
review today will focus on this volume. The producers on this CD are
The Architect, DJ Kru and DJ Immortal. 'Bis has two reoccurring
themes on this album - one of which is discarded after a few songs and
the other which remains for almost the entire CD. The first is The Iron
Sheik, a man born Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri in Iran who excelled
as an amateur wrestler early in his life. He was lured into the world of
pro wrestling in the U.S. in the 1970's, then rose to fame in the 1980's
as a villainously cartoonish bad guy (heel) foil for good guy (babyface)
wrestlers like Hulk Hogan. With the passing of time and consumption
of too much wine, Sheik found renewed fame in the 2000's for his
vitriolic expletive filled tirades against wrestlers he faced in the 1980's.
These often came with threats to "humble" his enemies which were
curiously homosexual, even though most of his slurs were homophobic.
The fetish for using Sheik's profane rants seems largely over after the
lengthy third track "The Art of Yo," at which point the listener is presented
with numerous songs with "Cypher" in the title. Six straight songs on
"Lyrical Law" and 7 out of 15 overall include the word, though to 'Bis
credit each one is indeed a conglomeration of emcees and not just his
own verbals. "Emerald Cypher" features Born Sun and Killah Priest.
"Golden Cypher" features K-Solo and Ras Kass. "Cypher of Agartha"
features Copywrite and Planet Asia. "Cypher of Steel" features K-Rino
and Skarlit Rose. The best among them all may be "Cypher of Five Mics"
which features a trademark quickly spit punchline rap from Chino XL.
There's also a "Cypher of Bread & Butter" with Royce Da 5'9" - which
is slightly odd given the two were originally said to be feuding on
Twitter before this album was released - and a "Cypher With Self"
whose title one could argue is self-explanatory. It's arguable that the
epic 12 minute long "Rip vs. Poet Laureate" does the same thing though.
Speaking of song length, that's one of the greatest strengths and
weaknesses of "Lyrical Law." 'Bis is clearly out to prove a point here,
both that he's the epitome of emcee based on the rappers he can hold
his own with in a cypher, and the length with which he can flow on
his own when he's not in one. That makes for some intriguing material
for the die-hard Canibus fan, but even those who like him may feel
overwhelmed knowing over half the tracks are more than four minutes
long. 'Bis is often compared to rappers like GZA and Rakim in terms
of his metaphoric strength, breath control, clarity of diction and
commanding stature on the microphone. One key difference is that
both GZA and Rakim were able to prove they were great in shorter
attention getting bursts, and while I'd never argue that 'Bis isn't a
great rapper, the sheer volume of songs like "Rip vs. Poet Laureate"
is mind-numbing. On top of that there's a gimmick with computer
manipulating his bars that is either (A.) lyric samples spliced together
or (B.) an artificial attempt to speed up his flow by taking pauses out.
Steel yourself before pressing play if you listen to it all in one shot.
In summary "Lyrical Law" is an album marketed to the most passionate
of Canibus fans, initially sold only through his
and that shows in the selection of material which can be found on it.
While arguably any recent 'Bis album such as
"C of Tranquility" can
be described similarly, this one more than most goes out of its way to
say "there's no such thing as a song here you can put on a mixtape or
spin between tracks on college radio." A better title for this release might
have been "Lyrical Exercise" because that's exactly what it is - 'Bis
showing off his raw talent at the expense of making concise and easily
palatable tracks. It's an impressive performance, but it's also a bit
maddening that he couldn't throttle it back a bit. No one expects 'Bis
to make pop friendly music, but at the very least Germaine, a few songs
under four minutes with a hook to break things up really aren't so evil.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: September 6th, 2011